It’s been too long a wait since the Southampton game – in truth we football supporters have little patience anyway. We are always looking forward. In June when the fixtures come out the potential end of season points tally are already being totted up – “Ah Hull away in December, 3 points there will set us up nicely for the very tricky Spurs game coming up, and we have a great run-in and should win the last six”. I do it every season.
After winning our first three games this campaign, I was told that we should be winning the next six as they were all very winnable. That would have been 27 points on the board after 9 games! It would have been very nice indeed. Of course it wasn’t to be. It’s impossible to predict the twists and turns throughout a 38 game season, but even the most optimistic red would not have dreamt how close this side are to the summit of the table when pouring over the fixture list last June. It’s just great to be even looking ahead to what are vital games in the race for top honours and we are well and truly part of it.
Going to print we don’t know the outcome of the Man United game but no matter what the result the redmen will still be in a strong position to return to Europe’s top table once again next season. This coming week we face two teams in a relegation battle and another with their eyes still firmly fixed on a top 4 finish. Cardiff are fighting for their lives and after looking like their appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjær was going to be a mistake on the tanned ones part, the victory over the already doomed Fulham may well have kick-started their fight for survival and the game against Cardiff is unlikely to be done and dusted before the end of the first half as it was last December at Anfield. But it’s certainly a game we should be winning.
Sunderland have been involved in a cup final and a cup semi-final in the last few weeks and won neither of them. The semi-final defeat at Hull bared no resemblance to their decent performance in the League Cup final reverse to Man City. They won’t have Fabio Borini available for selection at Anfield of course, the Italian has had a productive loan spell in the North-East and should report back to pre-season training at Melwood with renewed hope that he has a future at the club. Speaking of Sunderland, I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Doig recently. Eric is the grandson of the famous Sunderland and Liverpool goalkeeper, Ned Doig. Born in Arbroath Ned was actually on the books of the club when they beat Bon Accord 36-0 in the Scottish cup, and to this day is still the clubs most capped international with two caps for Scotland. Moving to Sunderland via Blackburn, Ned made his name under the guidance of Tom Watson at Sunderland, winning an incredible four league titles before joining Watson at Anfield and winning a second division title. Buried in an unmarked grave Eric finally erected a headstone in honour of his grandfather last December, situated just a few feet away from his manager Tom Watson.
The home game against Tottenham Hotspurs will bring the month to an end and a victory here would surely see us create a big enough gap between ourselves and the North Londoners. It’s been a strange few months for Tim Sherwood. Winning at Old Trafford and impressive victories at Newcastle and qualifying for the last 16 of the Europa League. On the other hand, they can ship goals at an alarming rate as we reds know only too well. But what we will know by the end of this month is whether us reds can still dream of league glory – Over to you lads.
Red All Over The Land – Issue 193 – @dmoenlfc
Today we have West Ham United as visitors and hopefully after the Hull and Norwich games in the past week we are still in amongst the top four places. Hard to imagine that it’s only 5 years since we drew 0-0 at home to the hammers to go top of the league– it wasn’t enough to please all in L4 that evening with sporadic boos ringing around the ground at the final whistle at the ‘disastrous’ outcome. A lot has happened since then of course and what we would give to be heading to the summit after today’s encounter.
Recent activity between the two clubs have centered on transfer deals; in the opposing squad we have ex reds in Stewart Downing, Joe Cole and the unlikely to feature Andy Carroll. Sadly none of the three set the world alight during their stay at Anfield, although Andy Carroll will be fondly remembered for his goal in the Merseyside FA Cup semi-final. If any of the lads are reading this, maybe you could tell that goalkeeper Jaaskelainen that the KOP applauds every visiting goalkeeper that comes to Anfield.
The reds have fared much better in recent transfer activity between the clubs, Javier Mascherano and Youssi Beneyoun arriving in 2007 with a large degree of success. Go back a further 14 years and we had a man who would write himself into the Anfield history books, Julian Dicks. It was a deal the Boleyn Ground occupants couldn’t turn down, the hammers getting in two pretty decent players in Mike Marsh and David Burrows for Dicks. He wouldn’t last long at Anfield, signed by Graham Souness to add more aggression to the back line; he would last just a year at Anfield. Souness’s replacement, Roy Evans, didn’t fancy the player and amid concerns over his fitness he was eventually shipped back to West Ham, who must have been delighted with the overall outcome of the deal. Still, in his brief sojourn he would become the answer to a common Liverpool FC quiz question. Who was the last Liverpool player to score in front of the standing KOP? None other than the Terminator himself, netting a 75th minute penalty on Grand National day 1994. The reds lost their last two home games to nil against Newcastle and Norwich respectively.
We have also went head-to-head with West Ham on three occasions with silverware at stake, yes I’m counting the Charity Shield game of 1980, hey I was 8 and it meant everything to me at the time and the 90,000 plus in attendance as well. A Terry Mac strike proving to be the only score of the game. Both sides would meet again in two cup finals, the much written about Gerrard FA Cup final of 2006 and the 1981 League Cup final, which also had its fair share of talking points and was to be Liverpool’s first triumph in the competition.
West Ham had won the FA Cup in 1980 as a second division side with a rare Brooking header overcoming hot favourites Arsenal. The following season they easily won promotion to the top table once more and with it another cup final appearance against a Liverpool side who were on the way to winning a third European Cup later in the spring.
As per the norm when Clive Thomas was in charge – controversy was never far away. A Sammy Lee ‘goal’ in the first half was ruled out for offside before Lee was once again in the action late on in extra-time. This time the Liverpool man was felled in the area after a crunching Alvin Martin challenge and as the hammers defence rushed out leaving Lee lying prostate in the area and in an offside position – Alan Kennedy simply rifled the ball past Phil Parkes. GOAL-NO GOAL? Thomas ignored the lines-man’s flag and gave the goal and with it surely a first Liverpool FC League Cup triumph. Not to be, to West Hams credit they piled forward. Ray Clemence pulled off a magnificent save from a Ray Stewart free-kick and from the resulting corner; Bootle born Alvin Martins headed goal wards, only for it to be punched off the line by Terry McDermott, a sending off offence today. Ray Stewart didn’t miss many penno’s and he sent Clemence the wrong way as both sides headed for an April Fool date replay at Villa Park. As they carried their tired limps off the sapping Wembley surface, I’m sure Alan Kennedy was cursing his luck, he was within seconds of scoring what would have been a cup winning goal. His time would come later that year in Paris and again in Rome three years later.
The replay was a much more open affair and it was the second division side that opened the scoring when Paul Goddard nodded in after five minutes. But the east-end joy was short-lived, within 30 minutes Liverpool had scored the goals that would take the cup to Anfield for the first time. Kenny Dalglish brilliantly hooking home a volley before an Alan Hansen header with the help of Billy Bonds knee won the day for the reds who were playing in their change strip of white shirts and black shorts. Simple strip back then, a classic – probably never to be seen again without some sort of zig-zag design to spoil it.
We did like that cup didn’t we, maybe it was the taste of milk the victors enjoyed afterwards, although stories emulating from that period would suggest most of the team were impartial to the black stuff than the white. We liked it so much that we decided to keep it for four years on the bounce before Clive Allen haunted us on Halloween night 1985. It wasn’t a bad return of silverware for a cup we hadn’t won at all up to 1981.
At the time of going to press we are in second place – just on goals scored – doesn’t really matter at this moment in time, but it might come May. It did in ’89 and Arsenal benefited then as well. But let’s be honest – after heading in at the break three goals to the good we should have been hitting an already beaten Palace side for at least 4 or 5 thus hitting top spot going into the international break in our own right. Not that I expect us to be in this position coming into the last month of the season, I don’t, but the signs are there for a realistic challenge for a Champions League spot at the very least. Maybe the introduction of Alberto a bit earlier or springing Ibe from the bench would have livened proceedings up a notch, as all in all the second half was a non-event. Second half showings is a cause for concern for reds at the moment – hard to put the finger on this one, we are sitting back and it must be a concern for Brendan and the coaching staff as well as we can’t afford that luxury with the tough games we have coming up.
Speaking of Arsenal, May 89 and International football breaks. I remember Aldo, Staunton, Whelan and Houghton and co (O’Leary and Quinn) had to travel to Dublin the day after that game to play Malta in a crucial World Cup qualifying game the following afternoon (Sunday). No time for dwelling on what happened on that dramatic Friday night for the lads as Italia 90 beckoned just a year later. Wonder did they share a cab to Speke the next morning with Dave O’Leary and Niall Quinn. Nowadays we have a full week of well nothing really. Mindless speculation to fill the back pages, the January transfer window is right upon us you know – Suarez for Real, Suarez to be offered new contract, take your pick, please don’t take it seriously. But good news, ‘Arry is plugging his book. Thought he said he wrote like a two year old and can’t spell – what a great book this will be. Get the crayons out; it must be a colouring book. Am I allowed to say colouring? Too late, the Editor missed it. A ban for me for issue 192 is on the cards, and a tee shirt!
But the league break has come at a good time for Glen Johnston and Philippe Coutinho in their recovery from injuries. Both players have been missed and Joe Allen is also nearing a return to bolster our midfield options. Rodgers did Joe no favours at all labelling him the Welsh Xavi did he? It’s a big season for Joe Allen and let’s hope he’s not hampered by any further injuries as we need all hands on deck for the trips to Arsenal and the theatre of beams across the park in a few weeks time.
At the time of going to press, I don’t know the outcome of the game at St. James’s Park or whatever the hell it’s called these days. Hopefully we came away with the points and are sitting pretty ahead of today’s game V WBA. Let’s not forget the boys from the Black Country took 6 points of us last season and Steve Clarke has done a great job in making WBA an established Premier League side. I met one of their all time greats a few weeks back in Cyrille Regis. He was at the launch of the new DVD “Thank God for Football” by Peter Lupson at the National Football Museum up the M62. Peter traced the roots of some of the football leagues founding members back to their formation, all from a church background. Everton being no exception and we all know what happened them and the split with the blues is also dealt with in good detail. All in all an excellent DVD and indeed book for those looking for an early (dare I say it) stocking filler.
I was sad to see one of the LFC independent publications Well Red going by the wayside recently. A big shame as it was always a very good read packed with insightful and historical features. But it must be difficult to compete against the up to the minute blogs, forums and podcasts that are around at the moment. But it was good whilst it lasted, thanks Gareth.
Two Irish based podcasts, The IrishKop and The Day Trippers recently touched on the issues of travel agents in the Irish market. Both highlighted the inflated prices being charged by these companies and the lack of knowledge of match goers in obtaining tickets for games themselves. €400 for one adult for the Arsenal game next February, and that’s a boat trip ! Meanwhile Liverpool Thomas Cook has sold out of their packages for the same game, with prices starting at £259. Education is key to putting the travel agents out of the picture. However, we are now in the era where a trip to Anfield is an event, not a match. As was mentioned on the podcasts, the club don’t want people heading in 10 mins before KO and not purchasing anything. Thomas Cook advertises a trip to Anfield as hearing an Army of Liverpool FC fans bursting out “You’ll never walk alone” as a spectacle any fan can appreciate…as well as experiencing undoubtedly one of the best atmospheres in football. How depressing, the ‘Who Are Yas’ is getting louder, Scouser Tommy is getting faster, YNWA is interrupted and the santa suits are just around the corner. Hi Ho.. Top of the league
Which brings me nicely to this particular publication – as advertised on recent covers, it’s not a programme. But it’s a number of articles, observations by reds from different walks of life. What more do you want for just £2/€3. Tell your friends or subscribe on http://redallovertheland.com